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When numbers lie: the hidden danger of growing Web traffic written by Claudie Clot, CEO of

If you are like most companies, you have been quite pleased with the steady increase of traffic your site has received over the past months. After all, your marketing efforts have intensified and your staff's expertise has deepened to the point that your web site is now consistently generating better results. But is it really the case? Very often behind those glorifying web site statistics hides a problem that can give companies a false sense of achievement. The number of page views is growing as is the number of user sessions. Plus, visitors keep coming back. Yet, the web site produces no significant results. At least, nothing of the magnitude other Web companies seem to enjoy. The problem: single page access -- visitors who come to your web site and leave as soon as they reach the first page. A very serious problem indeed when one realizes that these visitors can account for a large percentage of the site's traffic. The danger lies in the fact that the problem can easily go unnoticed. Attract enough visitors to your site, and your general web site statistics, especially page views and user sessions, will be quite impressive. The numbers tell you one thing, however reality shows a very different picture. At the end of the day, you may never realize that the traffic and ultimately your efforts have little chance of contributing to the company's bottom line. The good news: the problem can easily be solved. In fact, knowing that the problem exists and understanding why visitors leave so quickly represents half the solution. Completely resolving the issue at hand, however, entails sharpening the way you reach and communicate with your prospects on the Web. As you will see, the site itself is not always the problem.

1.Identifying the problem - Taking a closer look at your web site statistics reports

How do you know if you are experiencing this problem? It's quite easy. You simply need to compare two key web site traffic statistics to determine whether your site is at risk. The trick is to measure the number of user sessions that initiated at the top entry page (usually the home page). Then, you need to subtract the number of user sessions which included only that page. The larger the resulting number, the more serious the problem. To illustrate the problem, let's look at a real life example. Company A develops and markets advanced communications systems to a variety of small vertical markets including governmental agencies, universities, and airports. A recent web site statistics report shows the following picture:

1. Top entry pages:
Number 1 - Home page - 582 user sessions
2. Top single access pages:
  Number 1: Home page - 228 user sessions 

Based on these data, we can see that 582 user sessions have originated at the Home page. And 228 sessions have included only the Home page. Hence, during 354 sessions, visitors left the site as soon as they reached the Home page. That's more than 39% of the traffic that entered through the front door.

2. Understanding why visitors leave your site upon reaching it

The most important step in solving the problem is determining whether the visitors who left your site were new visitors or repeat visitors. A detailed web site statistics report should give you an idea of the nature of the traffic. From that point, you simply need to identify the most likely scenario(s) and use the corresponding solution(s).

First-time visitors
Visitors do not need your products or services, and therefore leave the site.   Revise your promotional strategy to make sure you attract the right prospects. This entails taking a hard look at the site description on search engines and web directories.
Visitors need your products or services but do not really understand what you have to offer.  

Clarify your message on the page to facilitate comprehension. Be concise and straight-forward when describing your offerings.

A "products" or "services" link may not be enough to fully capture the nature and breadth of your offerings.

Visitors cannot find the products and services they need.   Redesign your entry page to include highly-visible links to product and service pages.
Visitors need your products but cannot access the information.   Make sure your entry page does not require any special plug-in or takes too long to load.
Visitors responded to a promotional message (email, banner...) but reached a page that did not mention anything about the promotion.  

Direct visitors who respond to your promotions to intermediary pages that serve as transitions to the main pages of the site.

In other words, include the URL to the intermediary pages in your banners, emails, etc... rather than the URL of the Home page.

Repeat visitors
Visitors value your site and need the products and services you offer but leave after they reach the point of entry.  

Inform visitors of site updates directly on the entry page. Make sure they realize that new information has been added to the site.

Use a section of the Home page as a bulletin board where you can post recent additions and changes to the site.

Source: Online Advantage 1.0 (Click here for details)-

3. Useful tools - Getting help analyzing web site traffic

Fortunately, you do not have to scrutinize web server traffic log files to uncover potential problems. This analysis can take just a few minutes with the help of web site traffic analysis tools. Very likely, your ISP will provide you with FREE software that will do an adequate job of detailing your web site traffic patterns. If your current software package does not meet your needs, we recommend software solutions from WebTrends. These solutions include advanced web site traffic analysis tools that can even analyze your traffic in real time.


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